Category Archives: 1930s

Finished Project: 1930′s Polka Dot Blouse

I’m trying to finish up a few little UFO’s before the New Year, and I just happened to have this one finished in time for the Historical Sew Fortnightly’s “Celebrate” challenge.


The pattern I used was an NRA (National Recovery Act) era pattern, which puts it between 1933 and 1935.  I altered the sleeve a bit, but otherwise it’s as the envelope shows, the version at the top with the short sleeve instead of long sleeves.

I was a bit lazy, and sewed it up to the size the pattern is in, even though I know it’s too big for me.  I figure with the ties, the shirt can be tied in.  I’m somewhere between the dress form size and the original pattern size.  Because it’s a bit large, I was also lazy and didn’t bother with a placket- so it just slips on over the head, then ties to fit.

The fabric is a poly chiffon I bought at an estate sale for $5, and for the hem I did a little zig zag and trimmed away.  It was a pain, but I like how narrow of a finish it is.  I’m not very good at rolled hems, so this was a good choice for me.

Here’s the HSF required info:

The Challenge:  “Celebrate”  Last challenge of the year!

Fabric: Poly chiffon

Pattern: Simplicity 1676, an authentic original 1930′s pattern

Year: 1933-1935 (NRA period)

Notions: Thread

How historically accurate is it? Not very.  The fabric is not accurate, and the finishing is a mix between vintage and modern.  The cut is authentic, of course, since an original pattern was used.

Hours to complete: Maybe around 10-12ish.  Chiffon is fiddly!

First worn: Not yet!

Total cost: Somewhere around $40, including pattern cost.


Finished Project: 1936 Suit Frock

I just finished up this sewing project for the Historical Sew Fortnightly’s “Wood, Metal, & Bone” Challenge.  Since The Dreamstress said that rayon and cocoanut shell were allowed as part of “wood”, this is my entry.

In the 1930s there was a fad called a “suit frock” or “jacket blouse”.  These took the tailored look of a suit and combined it with a more casual alternative.

For this challenge I used two vintage patterns from 1936.  Since they were from the same year, the same size, and the same pattern company, they were based off the same basic blocks and fit together without any extra alterations.  I liked the front of one blouse and the back of another.

The Challenge:  Wood, Metal, & Bone

Fabric: Linen look fabric- blend of linen and rayon.

Pattern: Two vintage McCall patterns

Year: 1936

Notions: Cocoanut shell ship buttons and buckle, metal zipper, metal snaps.

How historically accurate is it? Very.  I used interlocking, which was available in factory made clothing but not in home made clothing.

Hours to complete: Quite a few.  Like usual, I didn’t keep track.  I spent the better part of one day on it, then 15 to 20 minutes throughout the last week every day.

First worn: Yesterday, September 21, 2013, to a friend’s birthday party.

Total cost: I had everything in my stash, so don’t remember what the cost was of each part individually.  I didn’t, however, pay $0.10 each, like the patterns have on them in marker (sadly).

Finished Projects: A White Pique Sports Dress & A Men’s Sports Coat, Circa mid 1930s

The Queen Mary Art Deco Festival was this weekend.  It’s actually still going on today, I believe…  and while I was still a tiny bit puffy faced and still pretty sore from my wisdom teeth surgery, I was determined to play dress up and see friends.  That, and my husband said he would take me to the new tea room on board.  Nothing can keep a girl from her tea!

For this event both my husband and I had something snazzy and new to wear.  He had a new belted back sports jacket and I had a new mid 1930s sports dress.

I had been home and achey all week because of my wisdom teeth surgery, so wasn’t moving very quickly, but was on and off working on drafting up a pattern I had started the weekend before for him based off of two original mid 1930s men’s jackets.  I am not professionally trained to do menswear or tailoring (though I have some on-the-job experience sewing both, but not drafting) so it was very challenging for me, and the pattern went through several phases of advancement, stepping backward, stepping forward, and then, finally, working out the way we both liked.  The fabric is a vintage fabric and it feels like a raw silk and linen or cotton blend.  I am still debating what to do with the pattern I drafted, though my husband says we should do a pattern for Wearing History (it would be a long time coming, if so, so don’t hold your breath).  My husband sewed this coat almost entirely on his own.  Since I was feeling under the weather, I prepped it and instructed him on sewing.  I think he did an amazing job!

My dress just so happens to meet both what I wanted to this event and the most recent Historical Sew Fortnightly challenge of  #18: Re-make, Re-use & Re-fashion.  This dress originally started life as a white cotton pique bed sheet that I picked up at a local thrift store for $5.  I was THRILLED, because good white pique is so hard to find!  I knew it had to be a 1930s sports dress.

I based the pattern on this vintage pattern, dated 1935.  I wanted to change the “lobster bib”, and make it button up the front so I could use fun, red anchor buttons I had in my stash.  I also chose to make the pockets lace up so it had a fun, nautical twist, similar to the feel of these vintage catalog images I posted previously on my blog.  Click the images to be taken to the original posts of the catalog images I scanned and remastered (psst… I’ve been seeing these floating around the internet a lot.  If you want to repost them, please don’t forget to give credit back.  Thanks!)

For the accessories I used a thrifted red belt, a vintage telephone cord clutch that I purchased at a garage sale, and a brand new hat I bought in Old Town San Diego with a 30s/40s vintage flair.  The shoes are also new and were purchased on eBay a couple of years ago.  The “L” brooch was a gift from my good friend, Beth, of V is for Vintage.

For the Historical Sew Fortnightly, here’s the dress details:

The Challenge: #18: Re-make, Re-use & Re-fashion

Fabric:  White cotton pique bed sheet

Pattern: Original vintage McCall pattern, adapted for my style preference

Year: 1935

Notions: Red bakelite anchor buttons, white thread, black star eyelets, red silk ribbon, white rayon seam binding, white invisible zipper.

How historically accurate is it?  Other than the invisible zipper I used for a fastener, this is completely historically accurate.

Hours to complete: 7-ish

First worn: September 1, 2013, to the Queen Mary Art Deco Festival

Total cost: Not including the pattern, around $15.  The buttons were the most expensive part of this outfit.  I believe the pattern was more costly, at around $35.

I want to revisit this outfit, as I think it has great potential, but I was a little unhappy with the fit in the photos.  I want to take it in a tad at the waist and bust, fit the belt more closely, and make a red jacket as in the pattern illustration.  I also have enough pique left over to make a matching hat.

We opted to skip the Art Deco Tea Dance, as both my husband and I were a tad under the weather (me from wisdom teeth, he from throwing out his back), so we took the opportunity to try out the new Tea Room at the Queen Mary.  I believe this opened up last year, and I was very impressed.  In general, I’m not a big fan of the shipboard food (not even the loved Sir Winston’s.  It’s just a personal taste thing), but the tea was very good.  The food was small, like all tea offerings, but perfect size for my post wisdom teeth operation!  It was enough food to fill both my husband and I up.  For $32 per person (a little less than the average cost of a good sit down tea), you get a tower of savory sandwiches, scones with clotted creame, jam, and lemon curd, and then another tower of sweets.  The tea wasn’t to my preference, as I like a STRONG English black tea and these were the more subdued American black tea, but I really did enjoy it and will be back.

We ended the evening with a movie on the top deck, under the stars, watching “The Big Broadcast of 1938″.  Other than being one of my husband’s favorite movies, I’m a big fan of watching old movies on the big screen.  How perfect is it that a 1930′s movie about cruise ships is shown on the Queen Mary?  I hope they repeat the vintage movie night at a future Queen Mary Art Deco Festival.

That’s about all I’ve got!  I took a shameful amount of photos, but it was a great day :)


Beautiful Spring + Summer Hats from 1930

I have a very special treat for you this evening.  Here are some absolutely gorgeous images of hats from the Chicago Mail Order catalog from Spring and Summer 1930.

Aren’t these just exquisite?

Click the image above to read descriptions of the color image below.

Click the image below to read the descriptions of the image above.

Just stunning!  This has to be one of the best periods for hats EVER.  *swoon*

Don’t forget to enter the giveaway that Debbie of Vintage Dancer has generously offered to my blog readers!  The giveaway ends tomorrow night!!  Click here to be taken to the post.

Happy Almost-the-Weekend! :)

Textile Inspiration- Pairing Dress Fabrics, 1939

Hello all!  Long time no post! I’ve been a bad, bad, blogger.

We’re currently working on a new production of His Girl Friday at the La Jolla Playhouse.  I’m so excited, and feel so blessed to be working on one of my favorite movies in one of my favorite time periods and years for fashions!  They’re setting the play in 1939 and I’m loving the costumes we’re building.  Of course, that means I’m wanting to make all sorts of 1939 fashions for myself!  Here’s some great images that I’m inspired by, from the Spring and Summer of 1939 Chicago Mail Order catalog.

What I love about this, and several other fashions from the late 1930s, is how some of them actually look like seperates but are actually a dress!   These dresses often include a few different fabrics in order to get a very tailored look.  In these pages it’s called the “basque styles”.

Even if matching different weight or style fabrics isn’t your thing, these pages are inspiring for what to do with trims.  Bows, buttons, ruffles… you can take a relatively simple dress and add a lot of whimsical details to make it more fun.

Although these styles are aimed at juniors, you can tone the proportions or styles down in you don’t want something so playful or “youthful”.


Hope the rest of your weekend is wonderful!

Fred and Ginger- Change Partners Dance

Today I’ve got a great couple of pages of “how to” dance the “Change Partners” dance from Carefree.  Fred and Ginger are my favorites! I can watch their movies over and over.

Click on the images for a bigger version you can read.

These came from “Hollywood Magazine”, October 1938.

Here’s the clip from the movie (via YouTube- not my upload)

If anyone manages to reproduce this dance from these instructions, please do share!

Have a great weekend!

A Fashionable 1930s Wedding

The weekend before last we were fortunate to attend the wedding of our friends Robert and Ashley (of Miss1940sVintage).  They are quite the couple from the past- and totally immerse themselves in their chosen eras of the 1930s and 1940s.  When they announced that their wedding was “Garden Party Circa 1930s” themed, we were not in the least surprised.  Given the lovely and creative dressing of the vintage scene in Los Angeles and San Fransisco (as many of the guests came down for the wedding) , the guests relished in the chance to dress the part to celebrate the union of their friends.

The bride wore vintage, with a borrowed lucky veil which belongs to talented singer and pianist Sara, of Sara & Swingtime.  All of the bridesmaids are clad in gowns created by the talented custom couture dressmaker and Simplicity pattern designer Theresa LaQuey (whom I finally got to meet for the first time at the rehearsal dinner).  The bride and her bridesmaids were picture perfect and the setting at Forest Lawn looked like it was just right out of a real 1930s film!

The Bride looked gorgeous and her flowers were period perfect!  They were made by Sharlene of LA Deco Flora.  The bride’s makeup was done by the talented Katharina of GoForKat (who also did the makeup of several of my photo shoots for Wearing History patterns).

The groom and all his groomsmen looked impeccable in vintage morning suits.  The joy of the groom in this photo, taken just after the ceremony,  makes me happy.

And, of course, all the guests looked fabulous!

The talented up and coming music artist, Mary Simich.  Her outfit was created by her own personal couturier, Mr Tiny of Wacky Tacky.

All the old cars were parked in front of the church for a fabulous photo op.  Here’s my husband’s top hat he wore at our wedding is perched on top of our friend’s Packard.

Of course, when you get old cars together you sometimes get the…. unpredictable.  In this case, we watched some of the groomsmen and guests give a friend a push to get it started.

En route to the reception we had fun following our friend’s car and seeing two of the European visitors getting a kick out of riding in the rumble seat.

The reception was held at our friend, Nathan’s, beautiful Edwardian home.  Here’s some snapshots from the reception.

Guests listening to toasts.

My husband looking very distinguished in the library.

And hamming it up, as usual.

I wore a vintage 1930s dress I had held onto for several years, waiting for just the right occasion to wear it.  This fit the theme perfectly!  I made the hat to match by converting a horsehair hat I bought at the thrift store to a more 1930s style.

Many congratulations to the bride and groom!

Finished Project: Jenn’s Wedding Reception Dress

I broke my usual code of not sewing for other people!

That’s right, I made another wedding dress.  I thought I’d be laid off for a month, and a lovely friend was getting married and could not find anyone to make her dress, so I volunteered.  Jenn wanted a 1930′s dance dress Ginger Rogers would be proud of.  We shared images, brainstormed, and finally came up with a design by cobbling together odds and ends of various vintage patterns to get together a dream dress for their 1930′s themed wedding on Catalina island in the glorious Art Deco ballroom.  Unfortunately I’m a big wuss and don’t like boat travel, so wasn’t able to attend.  Many thanks to Nicole of Paper Moon Vintage who took these photos and sent them to me of Jenn looking fabulous in her dress!  Jenn’s makeup was by the talented Katharina of GoForKat makeup.

Jenn’s reception dress was made of Italian imported silk organza and Italian imported Alencon lace.  We added horsehair to the hem to give it “swish” when dancing, and she’s wearing a vintage slip underneath.  Something old, something new.  The lace was appliqued on and cut away from behind on the bodice front and back to create a neat illusion of a lower front and back than the dress actually had.  The motifs were carried across onto the bottom of the skirt gores to tie it all in.

This dress just happened to be finished just in time to tie in with the schedule of the Sew Fortnightly “Embellish” project.  I know we’re supposed to say time, cost, etc for the Sew Fortnightly, but I don’t want to even think of how long it took.  Jenn’s mom bought the fabric for the dress, and I was paid for my estimated cost of time it would take to make the dress.  Part of the cost of the dress, since I grossly underestimated time, was a wedding and bridal shower gift for the happy newlyweds.  So it worked out for both of us.

Many congrats to Jenn and Benny! Yay!! Welcome to married bliss :)

Thus ends was my brief foray into custom dressmaking again.  Love my friends and “fans”, but I’ve got other eggs in my basket, so I’m passing the custom work so that those who are more talented at it, and love it more than I do.  I’m now retired from custom dressmaking… got enough between regular work and my patterns and life stuff to keep me busy!

Hope your week is much blessed!


Finished Project: The Dust Bowl Dress

The project for the Historical Sew Fortnightly Challenge this time was “Peasants & Pioneers.”

From the event page on Facebook:

“As wonderful as making pretty, pretty princess dresses is, the vast majority of people have always been poor commoners, whether they were peasants working the land, servants in big houses, or (later), pioneers carving their own space in new lands. This fortnight let’s make something that celebrates the common man.”

This automatically made me think of the dust bowl and the great depression.  The incredible hard times that people of my grandparent and great grandparent’s generation had to endure.  I want to celebrate something in our more recent history, within the memory of many of those still alive today.  The great depression, of course, hit across our nation (and internationally as well), but the dust bowl hit only part of the country, causing incredible hard time among those in the path of the dust storms, and forcing many to “pioneer” out to places for a new start, like California, in order to pick crops or use their farming skills where the soil was still fertile.

The dress I made is from all vintage materials.  I was fortunate to find a long length of vintage cotton print that I found reminiscent to the feed sack prints the ladies of the dust bowl would have used to make their clothing.  These were actually flour or feed sacks, and a housewife would collect them to make clothing for her family, or sew items for the home.  The buttons, buckle, and the bias tape are all vintage as well.  This is finished on the inside with rayon seam binding.

Very contrary to the dust bowl, today is a very cloudy and rainy day.  I was hoping to take pictures next to some old west style historic buildings, but it was not meant to be!  Since it’s a dark day, it is very hard to capture the colors correctly.

Without the belt, the dress looks rather 1920s.

A closer shot of the detail, which is more true to actual color:

This was made from a  mail order pattern from the earlier part of the 1930s, similar to what farming ladies would have used to make their clothing.  I have a copy, as I sent my original to a friend in England.  Although the dress in the illustration looks rather sporty, I wanted to take inspiration from vintage farm dresses and aprons, so added the bias tape to make this look more like a house dress.

Some inspiration images for this project that were found online:





Required info for this challenge

The Challenge: Peasants & Pioneers

Fabric: Vintage cotton print

Pattern: Mail Order 1918

Year: First half of the 1930s (about circa 1932-1934)

Notions: Vintage bias tape, vintage buttons, vintage buckle

How historically accurate is it? Very.  Without finished seams it would be more period, but I wanted to protect from fraying when washing.  The thread is poly, which is not period, but otherwise it’s totally dead on.  I found prints almost identical in a 1934 Sears catalog.

Hours to complete: Around 5-6.

First worn: Not yet!

Total cost: About $25 (not including pattern)

Keeping Warm in the 1930s: Rain and Snow

I’m a bit under the weather today, so I figured I should post another set of images in the “Keeping Warm” series.

Here’s two pages of catalog images from 1937-1938 showing coats to be worn in the rain, and outfits for play in the snow.


I find the fabric descriptions pretty fascinating. Rubberized fabrics like silk crepe de chine or cotton tweed, all rubber, or cotton gaberdine or whipcord- which were both supposed to be water repellent on their own. Also notice the sensible headwear, umbrellas, and rubber overshoes (which are made of rubber and hollow in the heel so that you can slip your regular footwear inside. I think they should make a comeback!).


This image shows darling snow wear! I admit I have a love for the vintage ski jackets- but I’d rather wear them in regular life than in ski and snow sports. I think they’d look pretty cute even with modern jeans! I personally think ski and snow wear has come a long way since the 1930s. Although I’ve never tried it in the snow myself, it’s hard to imagine these “water repellant” styles keeping you dry, if you spend as much time as I do falling down or sitting in snow ;) These are all mentioned to be lined in cotton Kasha. I have not personally ever run across this fabric. If anyone knows what the modern equivalent is, or if it’s still available, please be sure to let us know!

Wishing you a warm weekend,